It is a common question to needle a Muslim with. “Is your first loyalty to God, or your country?” And they give whatever answer they give. And if they say country, they are met with skepticism and it is immediately followed with “Don’t you know what the Quran says?” There is no right answer for xenophobia. Phobia by its very meaning is irrational. Similarly, some Muslims look at Hindus with deep suspicion. They are convinced that Hindus are out to take away their rights and their safety and no amount of pointing out numerous secular Hindus will be a reassurance. There is no right answer for xenophobia. Phobia by its very meaning is irrational. I will not go into the right and wrong of it, because I have no interest in debating people’s opinions and perceptions and prejudices and criminal tendencies. Instead, what I want to do is answer the question myself. My first loyalty is to my country. And here is my problem with all these angry religious people. I have no problem agreeing that if we love something, seeing it insulted hurts. My problem is with what is done about that hurt. There is a widespread legitimacy for a group of people angry to riot, damage public property, injure people and also at times kill. Particularly if they are angry with another religion or political party. Religio-political exploitation of our country has led to people who would file a police complaint over the murder of their own mother to take the law in their hands and go out seeking revenge for religious or political reasons. So, in my view, the hogwash that extremely hurt feelings make people act out of control doesn’t wash. What happens here is a deliberate incitement and approval of violence as a political tool. To dominate the weaker party into submission on threat of safety. In EVERY case. Irrespective of religion, irrespective of political party. Every time a group resorts to mob violence, they are in essence saying that “Our religion or our political party is more important to us than our country.” Whatever their reasons are, this is not acceptable to me. Holding the safety of citizens at ransom brings governments down on their knees. No matter which party is in power (unless it is the ruling party doing the damage, in which case, of course, they see it as an opportunity). It becomes nearly impossible to prosecute mob violence, for fear of further violence. In essence, each such instance becomes a state within a state. Each instance erodes the sovereignty of the country. MY country. Each failure to prosecute a large crowd sets precedent for impunity. Each successful riot sets a benchmark for the other side to rally its people against. In my view, all these people are on the same side, and that side is one of gang wars for control of power. Whoever wins. The loser is always the country. ALWAYS. And it infuriates me that some of these people then call themselves nationalists like rubbing salt on a wound. There is no disagreeing that wrongs happen, hideous wrongs happen, we have plenty of troublesome people in the country. However, using them as an excuse to indiscriminately attack citizens at large is the height of opportunistic bullying and cowardice. It is an attack on my country by the state within the state, and I do not respect this. Not even for God. This has become so predictable, that people can trigger riots by doing something stupid, knowing that one cartoon, one slab of beef, one insult, whatever can reduce people to animals, devoid of all control over their actions or worse, the animal cunning of predators. We claim provocation, but really we WANT to be provoked. Sriram Sene’s unfurling of the Pakistan flag is a case in point. If it were not discovered, it would have “provoked” retaliation against Muslims, as though no one else will unfurl a Pakistan flag to get stupid people rioting for fun and profit. As if, even if the religion of the culprit were branded on the crime, who exactly among all those attacked did it could be known. What makes it ok to attack an entire community of people over perceptions of threat from some of them? It is no secret that a strong party that can protect its citizens from threats gets votes. So not only is the integrity of a country being eroded, but the intellectual autonomy of citizens too, by manufacturing heroes and encouraging mental slavery. This is its purpose. In the absense of this, the violence vanishes. When police are now saying that it was a group of Hindu men who threw beef into the temple to incite riots, there is no outrage. I have people asking me how I believe what the police say. Yet, they would thump their chests and call it proof if the religion they wanted blamed were mentioned as culprits. Not a single person said that “IF” they did it, then it was wrong. Let alone wanting to beat them up or any such thing. Being a Hindu makes it ok to throw beef in a temple, I guess. It doesn’t. Every Hindu will still think it is wrong. But without a political target, there will be no need to riot or even harm the exact culprits. Muslims are very vocal about how Hindus treat Muslims in India. How do they treat Ahmedis in India? How do they treat Hindus in India? How do they treat Muslims in India? Where is the outrage? Big claims of genocide don’t even end up as whimpers if the main target to blame is missing. If this were truly religious hurt, betrayal by a follower of the religion ought to hurt more, no? But this isn’t about hurt, like I said. It is mob violence that has been deemed the appropriate response to wrongs by specific people. Yet these enemies of the country continue to masquerade as its protectors and leaders and well wishers. All the time destroying the rule of law to new heights through their own actions. Using slights and wrongs to incite people to attack entire communities with little proof and even lesser identification and total disregard for mechanisms to deal with illegal actions. Crime is increasingly rampant. Loss of life and property. Social safety. And what for? To prove superiority in a country committed to inclusion. To use the threat of massive presence and disruptive capacity to force. How does successfully retaliating mean either innocence or rightful cause? It only means you out violenced opposition. Think about it. We have redressal mechanisms for addressing wrongs. We have police, we have courts. Yes, they don’t function optimally. Yes, I know there is still no justice for the 1984 riots. At the same time, what citizens done done to make the system powerful enough to function against powerful criminals? Eroded it further. If justice has not been served, the need is to make sure it does. To use the system enough that it updates itself to cope with the responsibilities on it. To take the law in your hand, because someone else does it too, is nothing but a gang war. If your god likes it, that is between you and him. As someone who loves my country, I think all parties to this rubbish are criminals. Whatever your religion is, whatever your political orientation is, whatever your provocation is. If you have the guts to claim to love India, quit sabotaging it.